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NAB’s chief executive has apologised for the way the bank treated some customers, while also highlighting measures the bank has taken to improve its culture.

“The Royal Commission has exposed issues in our bank, and our industry, that have been confronting and upsetting,” Andrew Thorburn said in a statement to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics.

“In so many cases we have not had the care and respect for our customers that we should have, and for that I am sorry.

“The commissioner’s interim report outlined this in a fair and balanced way, and we will respond thoughtfully.”

Mr Thorburn said there had been at least four big shifts that had occurred inside banks over the past 30 years that had led to a significant change in culture:

  1. The primary focus has shifted away from customers
  2. Long-term thinking has given way to short-term thinking
  3. There has been a greater focus on incentive compensation – but the wrong behaviours (sales and short-term growth) have been incentivised
  4. Banks have become bound by internal rules, policies, regulation and legacy systems

We’re getting better, says NAB

NAB is working to become a better bank and earn the trust of customers, according to Mr Thorburn. Measures include:

  • Aiming to deliver exceptional customer service
  • Holding the bank’s 3,000 leaders to account through leadership standards that include a focus on empathy
  • Implementing incentives that focus on customers and the longer term
  • Investing in more reliable technology
  • Reducing the number of products, fees and forms required
  • Removing layers of management so decisions are made and acted on faster

Mr Thorburn also highlighted several positive actions NAB had taken over the past few months:

  • Declining to follow ANZ, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac in raising standard variable home loan interest rates
  • Allowing farming customers to offset their farm management deposits against their lending
  • Ending the use of higher default interest rates for farmers in drought-declared areas
  • Reversing the decision to close the Narooma and Dungog branches in regional NSW
  • Placing a moratorium on branch closures in drought-declared areas

“We have a long way to go to once more be the bank we want to be for our customers,” he said.

“We are more aware, more committed and more progressed on this journey than ever before. We will continue until it is achieved.”


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